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Artemisia vulgaris



Mugwort

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Artemisia
Species: A. vulgaris
Binomial name
Artemisia vulgaris
L.

Artemisia vulgaris (Mugwort or Common Wormwood) is one of several species in the genus Artemisia with names containing mugwort. It is also occasionally known as Felon Herb, Chrysanthemum Weed, Wild Wormwood, or St. John's Plant (not to be confused with St John's wort). It is called Mogusa or Yomogi in Japan. It is native to temperate Europe, Asia and northern Africa, but is also present in North America where it is an invasive weed. It is a very common plant growing on nitrogenous soils, like weedy and uncultivated areas, such as waste places and roadsides.

Mugwort is a different species from Wormwood, but of the same genus, and containing some of the same chemical components. The Mugwort is closely allied to the Common Wormwood, but may be readily distinguished by the leaves being white on the under-surfaces only and by the leaf segments being pointed, not blunt. It lacks some of the essential oils of the Wormwood.

It is a tall herbaceous perennial plant growing 1-2 m (rarely 2.5 m) tall, with a woody root. The leaves are 5-20 cm long, dark green, pinnate, with dense white tomentose hairs on the underside. The erect stem often has a red-purplish tinge. The rather small flowers (5 mm long) are radially symmetrical with many yellow or dark red petals. The narrow and numerous capitula (flower heads) spread out in racemose panicles. It flowers from July to September.

A number of species of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) feed on the leaves and flowers; see List of Lepidoptera that feed on Artemisia for details.

Additional recommended knowledge

Contents

Etymology

Mugwort is often said to derive from the word 'mug' because it was used in flavoring drinks. However, this may be a folk etymology. Other sources say Mugwort is derived from the old Germanic muggiwurti, meaning "fly or knat plant", which refers to its use since ancient times to repel insects, especially moths.[1]

Mugwort is called chornobyl in Ukrainian, and has given its name to the abandoned city of Chornobyl (Chernobyl in Russian).

Related species

There are other species in the genus Artemisia called mugwort:

  • Artemisia douglasiana – Douglas' Mugwort
  • Artemisia glacialis – Alpine Mugwort
  • Artemisia norvegica – Norwegian Mugwort
  • Artemisia stelleriana – Hoary Mugwort
  • Artemisia verlotiorum – Chinese Mugwort

Chinese mugwort (A. verlotiorum) is often confused with common mugwort (A. vulgaris). It has oblong reddish to brown capitula, its stems are green and the leaves broader, lighter colored and more dense on the stem. The plant has a stronger and more pleasant smell than that of the common mugwort (whose aroma is really light). It flowers very late in the summer, but reproduces mainly by stolons, thus forming thick groups. Chinese mugwort shares the same habitat as common mugwort and both are very common.

Uses

  Mugwort contains thujone, which is toxic. Pregnant women, in particular, should avoid consuming large amounts of mugwort. The species is little used now due to toxicity concerns, but has a number of recorded historic uses in food, herbal medicine, and as a smoking herb.

Food

The leaves and buds, best picked shortly before the plant flowers in July to September, were used as a bitter flavoring agent to season fat meat and fish. In Germany, known as Beifuß, it is mainly used to season goose, especially the roast goose traditionally eaten for Christmas.

Mugwort is also used in Korea and Japan to give festive rice cakes a greenish color. After the cherry trees bloom in Korea, hordes of bonneted grandmothers collect wild mugwort. It is a common seasoning in Korean soups and pancakes. Known as a blood cleanser, it is believed to have different medicinal properties depending on the region it is collected.

In the Middle Ages Mugwort was used as part of a herbal mixture called gruit, used in the flavoring of beer before the widespread introduction of hops.

Herbal Medicine

  The plant contains ethereal oils (such as cineole, or wormwood oil, and thujone), flavonoids, triterpenes, and coumarin derivatives. Chewing some leaves will kill the fatigue and stimulate the nervous system. It was also used as an anthelminthic, so it is sometimes confused with wormwood (Artemisia absinthium).

Mugwort is used in the practice of traditional Chinese medicine in a pulverized and aged form called moxa. The British RCT yielded results that indicate that moxibustion of mugwort was indeed effective at increasing the cephalic positioning of fetuses who were in a breech position before the intervention. Since it also causes uterine contractions, it has been used to cause abortion. It also plays a role in Asian traditional medicine as a method of correcting breech presentation. This method is termed moxibustion. A study of 260 Chinese women at 33 weeks of pregnancy demonstrated cephalic version within two weeks in 75% of fetuses carried by patients who were treated with moxibustion, as opposed to 48% in the control group.[2] It has also been shown that acupuncture plus moxibustion slows fetal heart rates while increasing fetal movement.[3] Two recent studies of Italian patients produced conflicting results. In the first, involving 226 patients, there was cephalic presentation at delivery in 54% of women treated between 33 and 35 weeks with acupuncture and moxibustion, vs. 37% in the control group.[4] The second was terminated prematurely because of numerous treatment interruptions.[5]

Folklore & Witchcraft

In the Middle Ages, mugwort was used as a magical protective herb. Mugwort was used to repel insects, especially moths, from gardens. Mugwort has also been used from ancient times as a remedy against fatigue and to protect travelers against evil spirits and wild animals. Roman soldiers put mugwort in their sandals to protect their feet against fatigue.

Much used in witchcraft, mugwort is said to be useful in inducing lucid dreaming and astral travel. Consumption of the plant, or a tincture thereof, prior to sleeping is said to increase the intensity of dreams, the level of control, and to aid in the recall of dreams upon waking. One common method of ingestion is to smoke the plant. Colloquially, this practice is known as "Having a tasp."

References

  1. ^ Lust, J. (2005) "The Herb Book" p.604
  2. ^ Cardini, F., and W. X. Huang. JAMA 280(18): 1580-1584, November 1998
  3. ^ Neri, I., et al. Journal of the Society for Gynecological Investigation 9(3): 158-162, May-June 2002
  4. ^ Neri, I., et al. Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine 15(4): 247-252
  5. ^ Cardini, F., et al. BJOG 112(6): 743-747, June 2005
 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Artemisia_vulgaris". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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